By Noel Rowsell
THE dedicated and committed volunteers at Zig Zag Railway are among thousands of train / rail enthusiasts eager to see the heritage rail line re-open later this year.
The numerous sagas behind the line’s closure back in 2012 would test the most ardent rail fan and it is a credit to the numerous volunteers who turn up every week to mend, maintain, replace or renew locomotives, rolling stock (carriages), stations, sleepers and track.
Originally constructed as part of the main Western Line, the Zig Zag was opened in October, 1869.
The Zig Zag Railway lost accreditation in 2012, then the State Mine Fire, part of the October bushfires in 2013, caught the volunteers at Zig Zag off guard, coming in from a new direction for the first time in memory and causing carnage throughout the system.
The railway suffered millions of dollars of damage, which included ten passenger carriages and four accommodation carriages. The most extensive damage caused by the fires was at Bottom Points workshop, where most of the south side was destroyed. This included the spare parts stores, offices and most of the machine shop. Electrical equipment to operate signals was totally destroyed, as was the repeater tower for the safety radio communication system and the internal telephone lines and exchange. One thousand new railway sleepers were also lost, as was the caretaker’s converted accommodation carriage
Hard work, long hours and endless enthusiasm from the volunteers saw the rail line begin to emerge from the ashes, then mindless vandalism to several carriages and other equipment put the whole project on the back foot.
More selfless dedication and hard work from the volunteers, who had shown amazing fortitude against the crushing circumstances, once again saw the railway headed toward redemption.
2019 and 2020 would however have yet another sting in the tail. In late-December 2019, the Zig Zag Railway was hit by the Gospers Mountain bushfire.
The station buildings and most of the rolling stock survived, with the exception of a few already vandalised carriages. The toilet block, storage areas, communications hut, signalling equipment, water and power supplies and main office, with the past 45 years of records, were all destroyed, along with an estimated 1500 sleepers, all of which pushed the reopening a few years back.
2,500 new sleepers have now been replaced and once again the railway is approaching the era of a new dawn, opening to the public in late-2022.
“We have an amazing team and a great project manager,” said Lee Wiggins, CEO of Zig Zag Railway.
“We’ve received State Government funding and recently put in a new car park at Clarence Station.
“The other challenges include rebuilding rolling stock, restoring the engine which had been idle for some time and governance changes.
“The management team is working hard in the background, we’re working closely with the Regulator, training volunteers and running rolling stock along the line.”
“Now’s the time for anyone that has ever thought about getting involved to give us a call,” said Zig Zag Chairman Ben Lawrence.
“Zig Zag is a volunteer organisation, it takes a lot of people to be able to restart our operations and then run consistently, so we need your help.
“We have roles available from the basic maintenance of the railway – like mowing lawns, gardening and painting to the operational roles of train controller, signaller, fireman and eventually driver, if that’s your goal.
“You don’t have to have experience – we provide training for all operational roles. All it takes is to join as a member and put your hand up, we’ll help you do the rest.”
Enquiries can be made by going to the Zig Zag website: www.zigzagrailway.com.au